Archive | January, 2012

Cocktail dresses

12 Jan

You know, this idea might just catch on:

A fully equipped American bar has just been installed in one of the largest dressmaking establishments in Paris. Its purpose, as frankly explained by the management, is to keep the men who “are dragged there by their wives from getting impatient and pulling them out” before the all-important matter of selecting gowns has been completed.

Women are also expected to patronize the bar, for, in the words of the dressmaker in question, there comes a time in the shopping hours of all women when a cleverly shaken cocktail will put them in the right mood to continue their search for a becoming gown.

Other dressmakers, naturally, are awaiting the result of the experiment with great interest.

—“Paris Dressmaker Installs Bar to Soothe Waiting Males”, New York Times, 16 September, 1928, p. 22.

49. Scofflaw cocktail

11 Jan

“How can one make Welsh rarebit with ambient prohibition? Ale, old ale is absolutely necessary to make the perfect Welsh rarebit. Would you make a scofflaw of me?”

— G. F. Scotson-Clark, Half hours in the Kitchenette (New York: Appleton, 1925), p. 52.

16 January, 1924. It’s been four years to the day since the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution went into effect, prohibiting “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors”. But the legislation hasn’t stopped Americans drinking. Speakeasies are flourishing. Bootleggers are smuggling whiskey over the border.  Rum rows stretch along the coast. And otherwise honest citizens of all classes, whether rednecks or bluebloods, beer-swillers, wine-bibbers or cocktail-guzzlers, have been turned into criminals.

Delcevare King

Delcevare King, businessman, busybody and veteran of the Massachusetts temperance movement, was predictably appalled at the extent to which the law was being deliberately and systematically ignored. Then the man from Quincy hit on an idea: he’d offer a $200 prize for the best new word that described, and stigmatized, these seditious swallowers of hooch. Perhaps, through a bit of old-fashioned name-calling, he might “stab awake the public conscience of law enforcement” (“Lawless Drinker Called ‘Scofflaw’”, Christian Science Monitor, 16 January 1924, p. 3). The competition caught the imagination of the nation’s teetotallers—and of the press. Entries flooded in from every state in the union, and on 16 January major newspapers from New York to Los Angeles excitedly published the results. The winning word, chosen from more than 25,000 suggestions, was submitted by two different contestants, both Massachusites, Kate L. Butler of Dorchester and Henry Irving Dale of Shawsheen Village, Andover, who would therefore share the money between them. From now on a tippler holding the Volstead Act in contempt would be known as a “scofflaw”.

Why “scofflaw”? The judges were guided by five criteria, King explained, which the winners duly met:

The word to be preferably of one or two syllables; to begin with “s”, such words having a sting, in the opinion of the judges, the word to be not an epithet for drinkers in general but for illegal drinkers of illegal liquor, the word to have “law” not “liquor” as a basis, and applying to violations of all laws, not merely the prohibition law, and finally, the word was to be such that it might be linked up with the statement of President Harding that “lawless drinking is a menace to the Republic itself.”

— “Are You a Scofflaw?”, Boston Globe, 16 January 1924, p. 1.

From: New York World; repr. in Boston Globe, 16 January 1924, p. 1A.

New York World; repr. in Boston Globe, 16 January 1924, p. 1.

King was so pleased with the outcome of the competition—and, no doubt, with the attendant publicity—that he immediately advertized a follow-up contest “for the best statement of not more than 100 words which points out why the drinker of illegally made or illegally obtained liquor should be called a ‘scofflaw’” (“Lawless Drinker Called ‘Scofflaw’, Christian Science Monitor, 16 January, 1924, p. 3). This time he promised prizes of $100, $50, $25, $15, $10, which, shrewdly, he announced on successive days for maximum effect. The winner on this occasion was Harold Bisbee of Milton, Mass. (it’s notable that, despite the nationwide participation that King always alleged, the honours always went to Bay Staters), who pontificated as follows:

We live in a democracy or a government by the people. By its very nature democratic government implies a huge sense of personal responsibility on the part of the people. The complement of enforcement of law is obedience to law, and the willingness with which obedience responds to enforcement is the acid test of a true democracy. The lawless drinker places his selfish pleasure above the law of the land, shows himself traitorous to the base principle of his Government, and is therefore in the fullest sense of the word, a scofflaw.

— “Scofflaw Logic Winner is Named”, Christian Science Monitor, 16 February 1924, p. 3.

Bisbee seems to have won because he more or less repeated King’s own statements to the press. Surely the torturous baseball analogy used by Bostonian Ellery H. Clark, who claimed the 4th prize of $15 with a passable imitation of a Victorian schoolmaster, ought to have been better rewarded:

One ideal we impress on American youth: in athletics and in life, “play the game”. “Obey the rules”, we say; “don’t kick at the umpire’s decision; be good sports; heads up, play the game”. The “scofflaw”, most emphatically, does not “play the game”. The umpire, the American Nation, has ruled that prohibition is “safe”, and that the drinker is “out”. But the “scofflaw” refuses to accept the umpire’s ruling. “To hell with America”, he snarls; “I’ve got to have my drink”. Behold him! A skulker; a non-American; a “poor sport”, lacking the manhood to “play the game”.

— “Wins Fourth Prize in ‘Scofflaw’ Contest”, Boston Globe, 13 February, 1924, p. 3.

Almost immediately King’s wheeze was roundly mocked by the men and women of sober reason common sense. One letter-writer to the New York Times pointed out that the new word “contains a flaw”— literally—and could therefore be read in a way unintended by King. To wit: “Scofflaw—one who scoffs at the idea of a flaw in the glorious Constitution of the United States as it existed in the year 1919”. The proper use of a hyphen might bring this meaning out more clearly, the correspondent continued, before signing himself “Scof-Flaw of Roselle” (New York Times, 18 January, 1924).

The soon-to-be-famous columnist Westbrook Pegler satirised King’s fatuous conviction that “those fiends in human form, those social buccaneers, who still drink more or less ardent liquids in defiance of the Volstead Act” would be humiliated by the “scathing sibilant” and moved to mend their ways. He pretended to have witnessed emotional scenes in a saloon after reports of King’s competition reached the ears of its inhabitants. The barkeeper was crushed. “I may be a bootlegger,” he sobbed, “but even a bootlegger has got feelings, and I won’t be called a scofflaw!” Another shady character was outraged: “To think of any dirty bum calling any fellow man a scofflaw for $200!” he exclaimed. “I’ve called many a dirty bum a ‘rotten gink’ for nothing whatever, you understand. […] But this ‘scofflaw’ business is something out of my line. If I should call a guy that around the place where I hang out at, somebody would likely shoot me and no jury would blame him” (“Scofflaw Causes Waves of Giggles Among Scoffers”, Atlanta Constitution, 27 January 1924, p. A6).

Another would-be King-deposer, Mrs Rose Scott of Saugatuck, Conn., decided to retaliate in kind and pitched a rival competition for the best word to describe a prohibitionist, a word that should be “the antithesis of scofflaw, but without its sneer” (“Antithesis for Scofflaw”, Atlanta Constitution, 22 January 1924, p. 1). A housewife and mother of two, Mrs Scott was an unlikely provocateur. By her own admission she never drank “anything stronger than wholesome beer”, had no political ambitions, was opposed to saloons and hard liquor, and favoured temperance (“Scofflaw Sets Experts Hurling Epithetic Muss”, Atlanta Constitution, 2 February 1924, p. 4). But she had been goaded into action by King and what she saw as his fundamentally “un-Christianlike” outlook, which was expressed clearly enough in the slanderous scofflaw. “We believe in the Bible and in respectable living,” she assured the press, explaining:

Centuries ago Puritan reformers, obstinate in their own views, crossed the seas to secure liberty of thought and action. They succeeded at the expense of removing the Indians . . . . Today there are millions of people like those old Indians in their desire for personal liberty and in their willingness to think and do what they consider right. There are those of us who feel we are being grossly imposed upon. It is difficult enough to exist in the multiplicity of existing laws, the worst of which at present being the crime of taking a glass of beer instead of a bottle of sarsaparilla, and now, to add insult to injury, the word scofflaw has been devised!

— “Antithesis for Scofflaw”, Atlanta Constitution, 22 January 1924, p. 1.

Mrs Scott certainly struck a nerve. She received some 4,300 responses to her challenge, among them such coinages as: anderson, bluebiddy, bluesop, buttinbully, contralib, curball, drynut, dryrotter, drywahoo,  freestricter, holygloomer, hypobitionist, killright, libchaser, libertycrab, libertychecker, liberticide, libertykiller, maltruist, meddlebug, messyfoot, muzzlerighter, pesterprig, pharisneer, pokenose, prohibigot, prohibitocritic, purinatic, purinut, pussyfaker, rabidist, reformaniac, rightsthief, shall-nut, slaveheart, sneerlip, snivelpest, snoopergoop, soulslave, superbigot, taboosier, verbotocrat.

Mrs Scott claimed to have accepted submissions from judges, politicians, clergymen, lawyers, college professors, businessmen and workers. One suggestion came from a Native American, “Sunshine-on-Face”, who contributed “newpuritan”. Her summary of his accompanying comments is suspiciously reminiscent of what she herself was quoted as having said a week before, when she announced the competition:

Sunshine-on-Face . . . writes . . . that the original puritan invaders came here with songs and banners about the joys of personal liberty. They were peacefully received by the trusting Indians on promise to make things pleasanter by showing them the reform methods and by introducing them to happier hunting grounds. “Our fathers were soon reformed from the face of their land,” he writes, “but the spirit of reform has again broken out in a new and malignant way, and these ‘newpuritans’ will be as intolerant to their fellow whites as they were to the Indians”.

— “Dry Haters Coin Many Biting Words, Hartford Courant, 31 January 1924, p. 2.

The winner was Joseph French of Chelmsford, Mass with the somewhat disappointing “banbug” (“‘Banbug’ Becomes ‘Scofflaw’ Antonym”, Hartford Courant, 17 March, 1924, p. 2).

The Harvard Advocate, a student newspaper, had the same idea as Mrs Scott, although it was motivated less by lofty principles than a sense of fun (“Seek Name for a ‘Dry’”, New York Times, 25 January 1924, p. 19). Its competition, open to scholars and outsiders alike, also produced a worthier winner. Some 2280 words were submitted, the most frequently recurring of which was, inevitably, “Delcevare”. The more imaginative neologisms to make the short list included: pure-tank, camel-louse, cocktail-flea, jug-buster, scoffprop, fear-beer, aquaduck, smugger, cookie-pusher, and dryad. But the laurels, and the $25 prize, went to Katherine Greene Welling of New York City for the truly brilliant “spigot bigot” (“‘Spigot-Bigot’” Wins in Harvard Advocate Contest”, Boston Globe, 29 February, 1294, p. 1A). Interviewed afterwards, Mrs Welling, 67, was adamant that citizens had a duty to obey the law, and disapproved of bootlegging and blind pigs, but added: “I think prohibition is outrageous”. Accordingly, she planned to donate her winnings to an organization dedicated to overturning the Eighteenth Amendment (“Aged Greenwich Villager Coined Spigot-Bigot Sneer”, Atlanta Constitution, 2 March 1924, p. 7).

King was untroubled by the push-back. As long as newspapers across the country continued to print and use the word “scofflaw”, he would be happy: “the more that certain wet journalists try to ridicule it and what it stands for,” he defiantly declared, “the more the terms will be pressed into the public consciousness” (“Scofflaw Proves Good Press Word”, Christian Science Monitor, 12 February 1924, p. 2).  He had a point. Even as the Boston Globe wondered whether the label would “stick” and become “a byword”, concluding that scofflaw “doesn’t appear likely to get far forward on its career” (“Scofflaw’s Problem, Boston Globe, 17 January 1924, p. 14), its own headline writers, as well those of other dailies, did their best to ensure that it entered the lexicon of journalese. Here are a few examples: “Story of a Detective Who is a ‘Scofflaw’” (Boston Globe, 9 February 1924, p 5); “Woman Scofflaw Aged 102 Years. Given Jail Term” (Atlanta Constitution, 20 February 1925, p. 10); “Jail Urged for every Scofflaw” (Los Angeles Times, 9 April 1926, p. 7); “Scofflawism is Sacred Duty in Driest Dixie” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 7 October 1928,  p. 10). And it worked: the term is still in use, long after Repeal, but interestingly its meaning has shifted: a scofflaw is nowadays usually a violator of parking or traffic laws (see e.g. “City Will Crack Down on Scofflaw Cyclists, New York Times, 22 October 2010).

King, then, won the war of words. But the best way to get back at him— of course!— was to invent a cocktail called “Scofflaw”. Which is precisely what a Paris-based mixologist did—a little more than a week after the results of King’s first competition were released: “Maxim’s bar has invented a ‘scofflaw’ cocktail, three parts rye, two parts French vermouth, a dash of lemon juice, and a dash of grenadine. The cocktail is most popular with American prohibition dodgers” (“‘Scofflaw’ Cocktail Gives Yanks Relief at Maxim’s”, Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 January 1924, p. 2). Just like the word that inspired it, the cocktail found its way into the canon. By the time it was immortalized in the Savoy Cocktail Book, however, the recipe, or at least the balance of the ingredients, had been tweaked. Harry Craddock’s formula is:

1 Dash Orange Bitters

1/3 Canadian Club Whisky. [Canadian Club was the most widely available rye in 1920s Europe]

1/3 French Vermouth.

1/6 Lemon Juice.

1/6 Grenadine.

Now, that it far too much grenadine, especially if you use shop-bought gloop, which will result in a luridly pink and cloyingly sweet drink in which the whiskey and vermouth have been completely overwhelmed. That’s fine if you’re struggling to swallow throat-scraping moonshine fetched from a Tennessee still, but otherwise you’re ruining perfectly good booze. After some experimentation, taking my cue from the original recipe and adjusting slightly for a more generous modern pour, this is what I ended up with, a satisfying sharp compound with an appropriately sub rosa hue:

1.5 oz rye whiskey

1 oz. dry vermouth

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp grenadine

A dash of orange bitters.

The Kaiser and cocktails

10 Jan

Here’s a rather rambling anecdote about the occasion on which Kaiser Wilhelm II allegedly sipped his first cocktail. And his second, third and . . .

The opening of the Kiel Canal.

This is a story of how the German emperor was introduced to the American cocktail. The event occurred at Kiel, Jan 19, 1895, when the Kiel canal was opened under the auspices of the German government.

After the maneuvers were concluded, Emperor William visited the various ships and in turn came upon the American fighting machine commanded by Capt. Evans. Formal salutations were passed and the emperor was invited by “Fighting Bob” to take an American meal at the officer’s table. With some evidence of delight, William accepted the invitation, and at the usual hour the host and his imperial guest sat down with the other officers and the service began.

The first luxury that appeared was an American cocktail, which the emperor sniffed and tossed off with joy in his eyes.

“Superb!” he exclaimed, nodding his approval at “Fighting Bob”. “A ‘kochtael’, you say? Delicious! Humph!” The dinner proceeded.

The Kaiser (r.) on board his yacht, the Hohenzollern, with his favourite dog (l.).

In a short time the emperor nudged a lieutenant sitting next to him, and leaning over, whispered something behind his hand.

“Can’t be done,” was the response; “the captain wouldn’t permit. Great stickler for form.”

“But it ought to be done,” breathed the emperor, knowingly.

William turned the matter over in his mind, and finally decided to take the bull by the horns.

“Capt. Evans,” he suddenly exclaimed in the midst of the meal. “I have a proposition to make to you. A proposition that I have no doubt will be acceptable to all of us.”

“Your Majesty,” responded “Fighting Bob,” “what is your pleasure? We listen with respect.”

“I propose,” resumed William, giving his mustache a nervous upward movement, “that we try another American cocktail before proceeding further with this delightful repast.”

“Impossible, sir,” politely replied Capt. Evans. “American etiquette permits only one at dinner. A thousand pardons, but I must stick to the customs. Your health, in wine.”

William accepted the iron rule of his host, and the wine glasses were refilled.

When the conversation turned to naval matters, William remarked that he had heard much of American alacrity. “I am told,” he ventured, “that you can get up steam in the starboard engines in three minutes.”

Capt. Evans touched an electric bell, and nodded knowingly at his majesty. The dinner was resumed, without further comment. In less than the stipulated time an orderly appeared, and, saluting the captain, said: “I have, sir, to inform you that the starboard engines are under full steam pressure, and awaiting further orders.”

Emperor William at once stood up and proposed the health of his host and of the American navy. He was greatly impressed by the astonishing facility with which steam was gotten up, and proposed a personal inspection of the ship. He went into the engine rooms down into the bowels of the great fighting machine, and marveled at the system and its discipline.

SMJ Hohenzollern on the Kiel Canal

Later in the evening Capt. Evans permitted his guest to revert once again to the enticing American cocktail, and it was in the small hour when the emperor of all the Germans boarded his private launch and returned to the imperial yacht.

Later in the day, at daybreak, Capt. Evans orderly informed the “Fighting Bob”—he was then tucked in bed—that Emperor William’s private launch was alongside, and that the emperor sent his respects and wanted one more “kochtael”. “Fighting Bob” dressed hastily, and stepping upon the bridge, lifted his cap and made a low salaam. The Kaiser was evidently in good shape, none the worse for his frequent investigations of the great American “bracer”.

“Captain,” spoke the emperor, making a megaphone out of his hands, “you Americans start with greater rapidity, but I think we Germans finish better than you do.”

Whereupon his majesty came on board again, and more American cocktails were decidedly upon “Fighting Bob” Evans.

The emperor had been up all night.

— “Wanted Another Cocktail”, New York Journal; repr. in Boston Globe, 3 July 1898, p. 15

A brace of bracers

5 Jan

HOSPITALITY. A story is told in Washington of a well-known senator, who is notorious for taking two cocktails in succession before breakfast. One morning a friend put to him the pertinent question, “Senator, why do you take two cocktails as a custom? Won’t one tone you?” The senator drew himself up. “I will tell you why I take two cocktails. When I have taken one it makes me feel like another man. Well, you see, I’m bound in common courtesy to treat that man; so I take a second.

Penny Illustrated Paper, 5 August 1871, p. 79.

48. Eclipse cocktail

4 Jan

We look up, apprehending disaster, and see, suddenly, a blunt snout sniffing at the sun. Black with all the blackness of absolute negation of colour, it thrusts forward, eating away the gold.

— Richard Church, “The Heavens are Telling”, Spectator, vol. 138, no. 5165 (25 June 1927), pp. 1116-7 (p. 1116).

[W]e had been allowed our vision.

— “The Eclipse”, Times, 30 June 1927, p. 17.

It was the most exciting eclipse I have ever slept through.

— Gerald Gould, “The Late Eclipse”, Saturday Review, vol. 144, no. 3740 (2 July 1927), pp. 9-10 (p. 9).

On 29 June 1927 the first total solar eclipse in 203 years was seen over the British mainland. Starting at 6:23 am, just after the break of day, an area extending from North Wales to the North Sea, from Criccieth to Hartlepool, was plunged back into darkness for between 22 and 24 seconds.

The event caused nationwide excitement. For weeks beforehand the press had been ginning up interest, running articles, scientific and pseudo-scientific, on astronomy, sharing tips on how safely to observe the phenomenon, publishing train timetables and road maps, and giving directions for travel to the zone of totality.  It worked. An unprecedented number of people went on the move, pouring into a strip of land 39 miles wide, straining the transport infrastructure to the limit, and stood shivering on hillsides to watch the eclipse. According to advance estimates 260,000 made the journey by rail, 175,000 by bus and 160,000 in cars. The New York Times was not exaggerating when it declared that “eclipse fever had gripped England” (26 June 1927, p. 2). One of the most famous pilgrims in late June was Virginia Woolf, who travelled with friends and family to Richmond in Yorkshire on the London and North-East Railway. “Trains like ours were starting all over England at that very moment to see the dawn,” she later wrote. “All noses were pointing North. When for a moment we halted in the depths of the country, there were the pale yellow lights of motor cars also pointing North. There was no sleep, no fixity in England that night. All were travelling North. All were thinking of the dawn.” (“The Sun and the Fish” [1928], Selected Essays [Oxford University Press, 2008], pp. 188-92 [p. 189]). (A typically London-centric remark: some were actually travelling south.)

On the Sunday before the 29th, which was a Wednesday, clergymen gave opportunistic sermons on texts like “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (New York Times, 26 June 1927, p. 2), and some small religious sects fervently prayed in anticipation of the Second Coming. But most Britons, then as now, were intent on partying. All along the corridor of darkness arrangements were made by hoteliers, restaurateurs and publicans to entertain the hordes of visitors. Many towns and villages held all-night “eclipse dances”; picture palaces and cafés were open into the small hours; licensing and amusement restrictions were relaxed (“Night Before Eclipse to be Gay in Britain”, New York Times, 19 June 1927, p. E2); at Richmond, near the central line of totality, a week-long list of entertainments included a lecture, competitions, whist drives, fetes, a cricket match and culminated in an all-night dance on the castle green (“Corrected Path of Eclipse”, Times, 21 May 1927, p. 9). In Southport, which in a souvenir programme billed itself as the “Eclipse Town” and managed to attract crowds of 250,000, the elaborate festivities were capped with an open-air jazz concert before dawn (“From the Sands at Southport”, Times, 30 June 1927, p. 18). All this carousing seemed rather heathen, the writer Sylva Norman thought, as she walked through Wharfedale in the early morning: “In the Town Hall the local Eclipse Dance was in full swing, nearing its culmination. The credulous savage beats drums to scare off the devourer of the sun; here we use drums and saxophones to herald its approach and celebrate its swallowing” (“Eclipse Madness”, Nation and Athenaeum, vol. 41, 9 July 1927, pp. 477-8 [p. 477]). That impression was shared by Woolf. As she and hundreds of others stood with teeth chattering in the morning gloom on Bardon Fell, it struck her that “[w]e were very, very old; we were men and women of the primeval world come to salute the dawn. So the worshippers at Stonehenge must have looked among tussocks of grass and boulders of rock” (pp. 189-90).

From: Punch, vol. 172 (29 June, 1929), p. 687.

While Sir Frank Dyson, the Astronomer Royal, professed not to be too worried about poor weather ruining the spectacle, since the British Astronomical Association had taken the precaution of dividing its forces among eight different stations spread across the region, a party of bookmakers arrived at Giggleswick, where Dyson was based, and offered odds of 7 to 2 that clouds would obscure the eclipse. Those in the tourist industry, certainly, were concerned that the British summer, which was even wetter than usual, might conspire against them, and many took out insurance to protect them against potential losses if the night of the 28th proved to be a wash-out. In the event Sir Frank had chosen his spot wisely: Hartlepool was overcast and Southport misty, but at Giggleswick the clouds broke at just the right moment. The New York Times was on hand to describe the events:

The scene during the eclipse at Giggleswick was weird and inspiring. As a voice from the astronomical party called “Two minutes”, thousands on the hillside passed the word along that the vital moment was near. The strange yellowish twilight faded away as if an unseen hand was slowly turning down an ordinary gas light. Then shadow seemed to rush over the gathering. There was intense silence everywhere. Even the birds which had been twittering earlier now were still. Then the watchers saw the sun, a black ball in a sky of gunmetal gray, outlined by a glowing, iridescent, irregular circle of fiery light from which red and yellow flames seemed to shoot. While all eyes in the group about the astronomical party were riveted upon these strange pyrotechnics about the black disc the voice of one of Sir Frank Dyson’s assistants intoned the passing seconds solemnly, as in Druidic ritual. As the voice called “twenty-three”, a dazzling flash of reddish-white light, brilliant as molten metal in some blast furnace, burst from the left upper rim of the darkened sun. It bulged into a blazing oval. Darkness was passing. From somewhere behind the camp came the sounds of cheering. Dawn had arrived. The sun had returned. Birds sang and the crowd began to break up across the ne[a]rby hills.

— “Sun’s Eclipse Awes Crowds in England”, New York Times, 30 June 1927, p. 27.

Pupils at Oundle School view the eclipse.

While reporters flapped their waxen wings and soared ever higher on their poetical flights of fancy, it was, unsurprisingly, Virginia Woolf who best captured the emotional experience of the eclipse and the shattering realisation of the fragility and ephemerality of life it evoked:

The shadow growing darker and darker over the moor was like the heeling over of a boat, which, instead of righting itself at the critical moment, turns a little further and then a little further; and suddenly capsizes. So the light turned and heeled over and went out. This was the end. The flesh and blood of the world was dead and only the skeleton was left. It hung beneath us, frail; brown; dead; withered. Then, with some trifling movement, this profound obeisance of the light, this stooping down and abasement of all splendour was over. Lightly, on the other side of the world up it rose; it sprang up as if the one movement, after a second’s tremendous pause, competed the other and the light which had died here, rose again elsewhere. Never was there such a sense of rejuvenescence and recover. All the convalescences and respite of life seemed rolled into one. Yet at first, so pale and frail and strange the light was sprinkled rainbow-like in a hoop of colour, that it seemed as if the earth could never live decked out in such frail tints. It hung beneath us, like a cage, like a hoop, like a globe of glass. It might be blown out; it might be stove in. But steadily and surely our relief broadened and our confidence established itself as the great paint brush washed in woods, dark on the valley, and massed the hills blue above them. The world became more and more solid; it became populous; it became a place where an infinite number of farm-houses, of villages, of railway lines have lodgment; until the whole fabric of civilisation was modelled and moulded. But still the memory endured that the earth we stand on is made of colour; colour can be blown out; and then we stand on a dead leaf; and we who tread the earth securely now have seen it dead.

— Woolf, p. 191.

And what is the best way of preserving that memory? In a cocktail, of course. Enter Mr Harry Craddock:

This is an age of gastronomy as well as astronomy, and a dish or a cocktail has now become accepted as the best way of perpetuating a name of a memory says a correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune. When the next total eclipse occurs in this country a hundred years hence there will be few things to remind the public of the spectacle which most of their ancestors didn’t see; but unless England goes dry in the meantime—an improbable event if the British climate deteriorates at its present rate, for simply by looking at the number of persons in a bar here one may estimate with close accuracy what the weather is doing outside at any given moment—there will be one survival.

Many cocktails have done honor to a lunch, but the lunch staged at the Savoy Hotel here to honor a cocktail, which in turn was created to honor the eclipse, is something new. It was created, appropriately by Harry Craddock, who claims to have shaken the last legal cocktail in the United States on the eve of prohibition. The cocktail is of a glowing red color, like an angry sky, and is made of lemon juice, grenadine, sloe gin and gin, each ingredient being poured slowly into the glass. It is one of the few cocktails that does not need shaking.

— “Cocktail ‘Eclipse’”, Washington Post, 17 August 1927, p. 6

Interestingly, that description does not quite tally with the recipe included in the Savoy Cocktail Book:

1/3 Dry Gin.

2/3 Sloe Gin.

Put enough Grenadine in a cocktail glass to cover a ripe olive. Mix the spirits together and our gently on to the Grenadine so that it does not mix. Squeeze orange peel on top.

No mention of lemon juice. And that, surely, is a mistake. Adding  ½ oz. of lemon juice to the mixture really does give it some zing. The cocktail looks better, too, if, as the Washington Post article suggests, the drink is not shaken, but poured like a pousse café. The photograph above does not do justice to the results, partly because my homemade grenadine is a little more purplish than the shop-bought stuff. The olive lies suspended between the crimson-coloured layer of grenadine at the bottom of the glass and the darker sloe gin; floating on top is the clear lemon juice, which resembles, or at least could be taken to resemble, the corona of an eclipse.

"For those who dwell outside the area of teetotality, there is no drink to eclipse Barclay's Lager".

You can lead a horse to firewater . . .

3 Jan

Country singer Smokey Dawson with his horse Flash at the Outback Bar at the Kingsgate Hotel, Sydney in 1974. Pic: Bob Finlayson, Daily Telegraph (Australia).

Patrick J. Farrell, assistant chief of the fire department and proprietor of a saloon in Bloomfield avenue, Montclair, NJ, has invented a new drink which, he says, is far superior to the highball, gin rickey, sherry cobbler, fishhouse punch or any other popular refreshment. He calls it the colic cocktail in recognition of the part a horse played in leading him to invent it. It is guaranteed to quench any thirst and to cure any colic. Farrell makes no secret of the way in which it is concocted.

“The recipe is very simple,” he said. “I take a little of everything in my saloon except my excise license and put it in the cocktail. Then it is shaken up well and makes a blend that is simply unequaled. It ought to be good because it meets the requirements of any sort of a thirst except one for tea, coffee or water. They may be added if necessary. That is one of the beauties of the colic cocktail. It is elastic.”

Peter, a sorrel horse owned by L.H. Henderson, a local drayman, was first to manifest appreciation of the new cocktail. Pete was in front of Farrell’s place the other day and seemed on the verge of falling. Many amateur veterinarians made suggestions, but it remained for Farrell to diagnose the case and deal with it.

“That horse has the colic,” he said. “Wait a minute. I’ll mix him up something that will cure him.”

He entered the saloon and for five minutes was busy jumping from bottle to bottle, jug to jug and keg to keg. Then he went out and served the dose to Pete. The horse took a taste, winked at Farrell, gulped down the cocktail, kicked up his heels and tried to run away. It was an instantaneous cure. Half an hour afterward Henderson drove Pete through the same street. When he reached Farrell’s place he balked, hunched himself as though in a paroxysm of pain and began to stagger in the shafts. Farrell ran out with another colic cocktail and warned Henderson to keep the sorrel away in the future.

“If that horse becomes a drunkard, I don’t want to be responsible for it,” he said.

— “A Colic Cocktail”, New York Press, repr., in Hartford Courant, 12 September 1911, p. 12.

47. Green Room cocktail

2 Jan

Ah, I forgot! You are fresh from Eden; the Green Room, my dear madam, is the bower where fairies put off their wings and goddesses become dowdies—where Lady Macbeth weeps over her lap-dog’s indigestion, and a Belgravia groans over the amount of her last milliner’s bill. In a word, the Green Room is the place where actors and actresses become mere men and women . . .

— Tom Taylor, Masks and Faces (New York: French, 1860), p. 32.

This pick-me-up, notes Harry Craddock in the Savoy Cocktail Book, is a “great favourite among mummers”. Well, naturally. It’s named after a centuries-old theatrical institution that, while it had vanished by the early 1900s, was fondly remembered by veteran treaders of the boards.

The green room, which evolved from the Elizabethan “tiring-house”, where actors would put on their costumes or “attire”, was a chamber adjoining the stage in which actors assembled before being called to make their entrance. (These days, of course, the term, whose origins are disputed, more often designates the reception lounge in a television studio for crew and guests.)

Originally, though, the green room was more than just a waiting area. It was the very “heart of the theatre”, according to one memoirist: “There beat its crimson life” (Alfred Lambourne, A Trio of Sketches: Being Reminiscences of the Theater Green Room and the Scene-Painter’s Gallery From Suggestions in “A Play-House” [Salt Lake City: Lambourne, 1917], p. 25). In this communal space actors would meet and socialise before, during and after a performance; but the green room was also, from the Restoration onwards, a “fashionable resort” that was “crowded nightly” by amusement-seeking princes, idlers and other denizens of the demimonde so that “plays began at any time, the waits between the acts were of any length, and general disorder reigned” (Mrs Alec-Tweedie, Behind the Footlights [New York: Dodd Mead, 1904], p. 61). Faced with such displays of laxity and impudence, the management of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane decided to clean house:

their Green-Rooms were free from Indecencies of every Kind, and might justly be compared to the most elegant Drawing-Rooms of the Prime Quality: No Fops or Coxcombs ever shew’d their Monkey Tricks there; but if they chanc’d to thrust in, were aw’d into Respect; even Persons of the First Rank and Taste, of both Sexes, would often mix with the Performers, without any Stain to their Honour or Understanding . . .

— William R. Chetwood, A General History of the Stage (London: Owen, 1749), pp. 235-6.

Even if the tone had been raised, in Drury Lane at least, there could not have been many who agreed with William Cooke’s naïve conviction that to admit a select number of gentlemen behind the scenes would have a “good effect” on the players and “contribute, if not to the morals, at least to the polish and refinement of the theatre”. Performers, he pointed out, “had few other opportunities of mingling with men of fashion” and, by studying the manners and deportment of the visitors, they might acquire “that habitual ease and breeding which theory can never alone inculcate” (Elements of Dramatic Criticism [London: Kearsly, 1775], pp. 212-3). Cooke failed to appreciate either that the cast, who were, after all, at work, might, as one notable exponent of the dramatic arts put it, be “discomposed by the rude mirth and noisy talk” that characterise a “Green-Room conversation” (William Dunlap, The Life of George Frederick Cooke, 2nd edn [London: Colburn, 1815], vol. 1, p. 129), or that the gallants who had obtained for themselves a backstage pass were more interested in flattering half-dressed Ophelias than in instructing Hamlet in the social graces. Samuel Johnson, for one, was well aware of the fleshly temptations that lay behind the curtain: his biographer, James Boswell, relates how he “for a considerable time used to frequent the Green-Room” in David Garrick’s Drury Lane, “and seemed to take delight in dissipating his gloom, by mixing in the sprightly chit-chat of the motley circle then to be found there”. Ultimately, though, Johnson “denied himself this amusement, from considerations of rigid virtue, saying: ‘I’ll come no more behind your scenes, David; for the silk stockings and white bosoms of your actresses excite my amorous propensities’” (James Boswell, Life of Johnson (New York: Crowell, 1894 [1791]), vol. 1, p. 111).

From: George Augustus Sala, Twice Around the Clock (London: Marsh, 1862), p. 244. Illustration by William McConnell.

By the nineteenth century the behaviour even of thespians was generally more refined. John Coleman recalled that the green room was “dedicated to delightful social intercourse” and the “etiquette observed always impressed us youngsters with the idea that it was essential to be gentlemen first, and actors next” (Fifty Years of an Actor’s Life, vol. 1 [New York: Pott, 1904], p. 319). The rules, both written and unwritten, mimicked the class distinctions and rituals of the outside world. The cast was, well, caste-bound and hence did not associate freely: in Covent Garden and Drury Lane there were two green rooms, the first exclusively reserved for the corps dramatique and the second set aside for the corps de ballét, the pantomimists, and the “little people”. In Covent Garden, as in other major playhouses, the first green room was a magnificent affair, “carpeted and papered elegantly”, and

with a handsome chandelier in the centre, several globe lights at the sides, a comfortable divan, covered in figured damask, running round the whole room, large pier and mantel-glasses on the walls, and a full-length movable swing-glass; so that, on entering form his dressing-room, an actor could see himself from head to foot at one view, and get back, front, and side views by reflection, all round.

— George Vandenhoff, Leaves From an Actor’s Note-Book (New York: Appleton, 1860), pp. 51-2.

Only once an individual was satisfied that the costume was in order did he or she sit down and enter into conversation with colleagues. Most green rooms were of course rather plainer than those of the grand theatres; but they usually contained that all-important full-length mirror, which every self-respecting, and indeed self-regarding, performer urgently requires.

From: John J. Jennings, Theatrical and Circus Life; Or Secrets of the Stage, Green-Room and Sawdust Arena (St Louis: Sun, 1882), p. 107.

Perhaps the most vivid and detailed description of life in the green room was provided by the pioneering theatre critic Clement Scott:

Here authors read their plays, nervously sensitive and inordinately vain; they are commanders of the situation for a brief hour or so, and then are thrust out of the way by the legitimate exponents of all they have created or suggested. Here, a few weeks afterwards these same swelling authors come to be flattered and congratulated; to be cold-shouldered or cursed. From this room issues the young and untried actor, carrying his fate in his hands, and who returns to these worn cushions a hopeful or despondent man. Sitting here, the young actress receives the honest praise of her companions, or whispered words of timely warning. Here men and women hate one another with a violence and an unreason, a want of justice and an absence of humanity, known in no other section of civilized society. They fawn here, they “my dear” one another, they backbite, they tell tales behind one another’s backs, they cultivate the religion of falsehood and deceit to such an extent, that people unversed in their ways are staggered, shocked, and appalled: but here also are uttered the most beautiful thoughts, here are done the most charitable deeds, here friendliness becomes a jewel on men’s and women’s breasts; here will be found the finest impulses of generous nature; here the right hand scarcely ever sees what the left hand is doing, and these battered, broken walls have listened to better examples of the religion of humanity, than ever preacher preached, or saint practised.

— Clement Scott, “The Manager’s Story”, in Clement Scott (ed.), The Green Room: Stories by Those Who Frequent It (London: Routledge, 1880), pp. 3-12 (p. 4).

By the end of the nineteenth century, alas, the green room, and the camaraderie attached to it, had largely disappeared, as times and manners changed. In some cases it was converted into the star’s dressing room. In others, as in Drury Lane, it was reduced to a prop cupboard.

The Green Room cocktail, then, is a nostalgic tribute to a lost tradition (as well as perhaps a sly nod to the goings-on in those sacred precincts). Small wonder that it was popular among actors who habitually mourned its passing. Craddock’s recipe is as follows:

1/3 Brandy.

2/3 French Vermouth.

2 Dashes Curaçao.

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